Targeting Buyer Personas —Dana
FOR ALL of you new print sales reps, listen up. Although sales managers and sales coaches may suggest that print buyers exhibit a predictable set of buying behaviors and practices, I'd like to remind you: No two print buying professionals are alike.
Consider the entire field of print buying professionals (all 20,000+, per a 2008 RIT survey). A few distinct categories of buyers come into focus. By understanding how print buyers differ, you'll have a better chance at connecting with them and developing long-lasting relationships.
There are exceptions, but I would say to you that the following two groups represent the major print buyer personas: experienced buyers and novices.
Experienced corporate print buyers have chosen print buying as a career. They have moved up through the ranks year after year, building skills by working directly with printers. I consider the "elite" buyers to have at least 10 years' experience. They are, for the most part, every bit as passionate about printing as printers are. They love the teamwork, enjoy the lifelong learning that print buying requires, and are the most likely group to attend industry and print buyer events. They identify with the printing industry as much as if not more than their own industry.
Print buyers work in different areas of their companies. Here are the most common: corporate communications, marketing, purchasing, media, creative, or publications. Titles may or may not include the term "print" and/or "production."
Depending on the buyer and his or her position in the company, he or she may have full and final authority on how to source printing and with whom. This is important to remember, especially if you think that print buyers have no say and no power in their firms. This is a dangerous assumption. Many elite buyers with extensive expertise are respected by their management teams. Their opinions and insights are solicited. They are not viewed as merely gatekeepers.
Experienced buyers don't need basic print education. They do their own research to keep up with printing trends and new technologies. Though they need little hand-holding, they are interested in innovative concepts from the printing industry. Some of the most seasoned corporate print buyers think they know printing as well as, if not better than, their sales reps. Sometimes they're right.
Your sales approach for this particular class of print buyers needs to be tailored to their level of print sophistication. They can decide with one quick visit to your Website whether you're a good fit or not, or if you have something uniquely valuable for their firms. More than any other group, they'll linger over your equipment list, because they understand it.
Keep it current. You may even want to annotate it so that your equipment list indicates the types of products best suited to a specific piece of machinery. (Such annotation is for the benefit of newer buyers.)
Brand new, "deer-in-the-headlights" print buyers are completely different prospects. With the exception of buyers who are former printers, most new print buyers have no industry knowledge. Sourcing print and comparing printers are foreign concepts. They need help compiling specs. Working with commercial printers is intimidating. They didn't plan on becoming buyers; the role was bestowed on them. The language is confusing, and the financial stakes are high. They require an enormous amount of hand-holding and ongoing education.
They may have little inherent interest in learning about how print is manufactured. Senior, experienced buyers have increased their skills and knowledge over many years. New buyers haven't "fallen for print" yet—and may never.
These novices may have totally different MOs for working with printers, and I'd suggest that this sums it up: Get the job done quickly. Make it perfect. Don't complicate things.
Your sales approach and marketing materials need to be very different for this category of print buyer. Show them you appreciate the challenges they face in learning a new industry, and you could endear them to you.
SOHO buyers are a different persona altogether. Most people who work in small offices and/or home offices need printing done at one time or another. Stationery, flyers, marketing materials and product sell sheets are some typical examples. Their budgets are smaller than those of corporate customers. Printing is necessary to them—but foreign. They haven't a clue where to find printers, and don't intend to spend a lot of time and effort doing so.
They need special attention and education from printers. These customers may be business owners or perhaps assistants to owners. Everything they know about printing, they learn from advertising. Many identify "printers" with desktop printers.
Imagine you have no experience working with this industry and have to find a printer to produce business materials. How would you go about it? That's what this group experiences. They'll ask friends and colleagues for names of printers, or they'll skip this step entirely and source printing with an e-commerce site or at one of the big box stores, such as Staples, Office Max, Office Depot or FedEx Office.
Now that you're aware of the different types of print buyers, what should it mean to you, as printers? That you need to understand the prospect you're appealing to.
When you're marketing your firm's services to a new prospect, a recommended first step is determining how much or how little professional experience that person has. The answer should trigger your specific approach. PI
About the Author
Margie Dana is the founder of Print Buyers International (www.printbuyersinternational.com), which offers educational and networking opportunities to those who work with the printing industry. She produces an annual print buyers conference (www.printbuyersconference.com) and has written her popular e-column, "Margie's Print Tips," since 1999. Dana speaks regularly at trade events worldwide and offers consulting services as a print buyer specialist. She can be reached at mdana@printbuyers international.com.